strange behaviors

Cool doings from the natural and human worlds

  • Richard Conniff

  • Reviews for Richard Conniff’s Books

    Every Creeping Thing: True Tales of Faintly Repulsive Wildlife: “Conniff is a splendid writer–fresh, clear, uncondescending, and with never a false step; one can’t resist quoting him.” (NY Times Book Review)

    The Species Seekers:  Heroes, Fools, and the Mad Pursuit of Life on Earth by Richard Conniff is “a swashbuckling romp” that “brilliantly evokes that just-before Darwin era” (BBC Focus) and “an enduring story bursting at the seams with intriguing, fantastical and disturbing anecdotes” (New Scientist). “This beautifully written book has the verve of an adventure story” (Wall St. Journal)

    Swimming with Piranhas at Feeding Time by Richard Conniff  is “Hilariously informative…This book will remind you why you always wanted to be a naturalist.” (Outside magazine) “Field naturalist Conniff’s animal adventures … are so amusing and full color that they burst right off the page …  a quick and intensely pleasurable read.” (Seed magazine) “Conniff’s poetic accounts of giraffes drifting past like sail boats, and his feeble attempts to educate Vervet monkeys on the wonders of tissue paper will leave your heart and sides aching.  An excellent read.” (BBC Focus magazine)

  • Wall of the Dead

  • Categories

  • Advertisements

Spectacular New Dolphin Species Discovered

Posted by Richard Conniff on October 29, 2013

This new species somehow managed to go unnoticed.

This new species somehow managed to go unnoticed.

Just the other week I was talking about how giant species unknown to science keeping turning up, and now a pretty one–and a pretty big one, at that–has turned up in sight of land, off the coast of Australia.

Here’s the press release from the Wildlife Conservation Society, and also check out a few more lovely photos below:

A species of humpback dolphin previously unknown to science is swimming in the waters off northern Australia, according to a team of researchers working for the Wildlife Conservation Society, the American Museum of Natural History, and numerous other groups that contributed to the study.

To determine the number of distinct species in the family of humpback dolphins (animals named for a peculiar hump just below the dorsal fin), the research team examined the evolutionary history of this family of marine mammals using both physical features and genetic data. While the Atlantic humpback dolphin is a recognized species, this work provides the best evidence to date to split the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin into three species, one of which is completely new to science.

“Based on the findings of our combined morphological and genetic analyses, we can suggest that the humpback dolphin genus includes at least four member species,” said Dr. Martin Mendez, Assistant Director of WCS’s Latin America and the Caribbean Program and lead author of the study. “This discovery helps our understanding of the evolutionary history of this group and informs conservation policies to help safeguard each of the species.”

The authors propose recognition of at least four species in the humpback dolphin family: the Atlantic humpback dolphin (Sousa teuszii), which occurs in the eastern Atlantic off West Africa; the Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa plumbea), which ranges from the central to the western Indian Ocean; another species of Indo-Pacific humpback dolphin (Sousa chinensis), which inhabits the eastern Indian and western Pacific Oceans; and a fourth Sousa species found off northern Australia yet to be named (the formal adjustment of the naming and number of species occurs through a separate and complementary process based on these findings).

“New information about distinct species across the entire range of humpback dolphins will increase the number of recognized species, and provides the needed scientific evidence for management decisions aimed at protecting their unique genetic diversity and associated important habitats,” said Dr. Howard Rosenbaum, Director of WCS’s Ocean Giants Program and senior author on the paper.

Working to bring taxonomic clarity to a widespread yet poorly known group of dolphins, the authors assembled a large collection of physical data gathered mostly from beached dolphins and museum specimens. Specifically, the team examined features from 180 skulls covering most of the distribution area of the group in order to compare morphological characters across this region.

The researchers also collected 235 tissue samples from animals in the same areas, stretching from the eastern Atlantic to the western Pacific Oceans, analyzing both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA for significant variations between populations.

The study appears in the latest edition of Molecular Ecology. The authors are: Martin Mendez and Howard C. Rosenbaum of the Wildlife Conservation Society and American Museum of Natural History; Thomas J. Jefferson of Clymene Enterprises, Lakeside, California; Sergios-Orestis Kolokotronis of Fordham University; Michael Krützen of the University of Zurich, Switzerland; Guido J. Parra of Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia; Tim Collins of the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Environment Society of Oman; Giana Minton of the Environment Society of Oman and the University Malaysia Sarawak; Robert Baldwin of the Environment Society of Oman; Per Berggren of Newcastle University, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, United Kingdom; Anna Särnblad of Stockholm University, Sweden; Omar A. Amir of the University of Dar es Salaam, Zanzibar, Tanzania; Vic M. Peddemors of the School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, Durban, South Africa and the Cronulla Fisheries Research Centre, Australia; Leszek Karczmarkski of the University of Hong Kong; Almeida Guissamulo of the Museu de Historia Natural, Mozambique; Brian Smith of the Wildlife Conservation Society; Dipani Sutaria of James Cook University, Australia; and George Amato of the American Museum of Natural History.

The humpback dolphin grows up to 8 feet in length and ranges from dark gray to pink and/or white in color. The species generally inhabits coastal waters, deltas, estuaries, and occurs throughout the Indian and Pacific oceans to the coasts of Australia. The Atlantic humpback dolphin is considered “Vulnerable” according to the IUCN Red List, whereas the Indo-Pacific dolphin species Sousa chinensis is listed as “Near Threatened.” Humpback dolphins are threatened by habitat loss and fishing activity. 

Ready for its closeup.

Ready for its closeup.

3. New species_dolphin_image_3 (small)





Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s